a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

Psalm 45

Ode for a Royal Wedding

To the leader: according to Lilies. Of the Korahites. A Maskil. A love song.


My heart overflows with a goodly theme;

I address my verses to the king;

my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.



You are the most handsome of men;

grace is poured upon your lips;

therefore God has blessed you forever.


Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one,

in your glory and majesty.



In your majesty ride on victoriously

for the cause of truth and to defend the right;

let your right hand teach you dread deeds.


Your arrows are sharp

in the heart of the king’s enemies;

the peoples fall under you.



Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.

Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;


you love righteousness and hate wickedness.

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;


your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.

From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;


daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;

at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.



Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear;

forget your people and your father’s house,


and the king will desire your beauty.

Since he is your lord, bow to him;


the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,

the richest of the people 13with all kinds of wealth.


The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes;


in many-colored robes she is led to the king;

behind her the virgins, her companions, follow.


With joy and gladness they are led along

as they enter the palace of the king.



In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons;

you will make them princes in all the earth.


I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations;

therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.

1 My heart is boiling over 157157     “רחש, rachash, boileth, or bubbleth up, denotes the language of the heart, full and ready for utterance.” — Bythners Lyra The Psalmist’s heart was so full and warmed with the subject of the psalm, that it could not contain; and the opening of the poem evinces that it was so, for he abruptly breaks forth into an annunciation of its subject as if impatient of restraint. Ainsworth thinks there is here an allusion to the boiling of the minchah, or meat-offering under the law in the frying-pan, (Leviticus 7:9.) It was there boiled in oil, being made of fine flour unleavened, mingled with oil, (Leviticus 11:5;) and afterwards was presented to the Lord by the priest, verse 8, etc. “Here,” says he, “the matter of this psalm is the minchah or oblation, which with the oil, the grace of the spirit, was boiled and prepared in the prophet’s breast, and now presented.” with a good matter This preface shows sufficiently that the subject of the psalm is no common one; for whoever the author of it may have been, he here intimates, at the very outset, that he will treat of great and glorious things. The Holy Spirit is not accustomed to inspire the servants of God to utter great swelling words, and to pour forth empty sounds into the air; and, therefore, we may naturally conclude, that the subject here treated of is not merely a transitory and earthly kingdom, but sortie-thing more excellent. Were not this the case, what end would it serve to announce, as the prophet does in such a magnificent style, that his heart was boiling over, from his ardent desire to be employed in rehearsing the praises of the king? Some prefer to translate the word to utter; but the other signification of the word appears to me to be more appropriate; and it is confirmed by this, that from this verb is derived the noun מרהשת, marchesheth, a word which is found once or twice in Moses, and signifies a frying-pan, in which sweatmeats are baked. It is then of the same import as if the inspired writer had said, My heart is ready to breathe forth something excellent and worthy of being remembered. He afterwards expresses the harmony between the tongue and the heart, when he compares his tongue to the pen of a swift and ready writer

2. Thou art fairer than the sons of men. The Psalmist commences his subject with the commendation of the beauty of the king, and then he proceeds also to praise his eloquence. Personal excellence is ascribed to the king, not that the beauty of the countenance, which of itself is not reckoned among the number of the virtues, ought to be very highly valued; but because a noble disposition of mind often shines forth in the very countenance of a man. This may have been the case with Solomon, so that from his very countenance it might have appeared that he was endued with superior gifts. Nor is the grace of oratory undeservedly commended in a king, to whom it belongs, by virtue of his office, not only to rule the people by authority, but also to allure them to obedience by argument and eloquence, just as the ancients feigned that Hercules had in his mouth golden chains, by which he captivated the ears of the common people, and drew them after him. How manifestly does this rebuke the mean-spiritedness of kings in our day, by whom it is regarded as derogatory to their dignity to converse with their subjects, and to employ remonstrance in order to secure their submission; nay, who display a spirit of barbarous tyranny in seeking rather to compel than to persuade them, and in choosing rather to abuse them as slaves, than to govern them by laws and with justice as a tractable and obedient people. But as this excellence was displayed in Solomon, so also did it shine forth more fully afterwards in Christ, to whom his truth serves the part of a scepter, as we shall have occasion by and by to notice mere at large. The term על-כן, al-ken, which we have translated because, is sometimes rendered wherefore; but it is not necessary that we should interpret it in this place in the latter sense, as if Solomon had been blessed on account of his beauty and excellence, for both of these are blessings of God. It is rather to be understood as the reason why Solomon was distinguished for these endowments, namely, because God had blessed him. As to the interpretation which others give, God shall bless thee for thy excellency, it is both cold and forced.

3. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh. Here Solomon is praised as well for his warlike valor, which strikes terror into ]his enemies, as for his virtues which give him authority among his subjects, and secure him their reverence. On the one hand, no king will be able to preserve and defend his subjects, unless he is formidable to his enemies; and, on the other hand, it will be to little purpose to make war boldly upon foreign realms, if the internal state of his own kingdom is not established and regulated in uprightness and justice. Accordingly, the inspired writer says, that the sword with which he will be girded will be, in the first place, a token of warlike prowess to repel and rout his enemies; and, secondly, of authority also, that he might not be held in contempt among his own subjects. He adds, at the same time, that the glory which he will obtain will not be a merely transient thing, like the pomp and vain-glory of kings, which soon decay, but will be of lasting duration, and will greatly increase.

He then comes to speak of the virtues which flourish most in a time of peace, and which, by an appropriate similitude, he shows to be the true means of adding strength and prosperity to a kingdom. At first sight, indeed, it seems to be a strange and inelegant mode of expression, to speak of riding upon truth, meekness, and righteousness, (verse 4;) but, as I have said, he very suitably compares these virtues to chariots, in which the king is conspicuously borne aloft with great majesty. These virtues he opposes not only to the vain pomp and parade in which earthly kings proudly boast; but also to the vices and corruptions by which they endeavor most commonly to acquire authority and renown. Solomon himself

“Mercy and truth preserve the king;
and his throne is upholden by mercy.”— Proverbs 20:28

But, on the contrary, when worldly kings desire to enlarge their dominions, and to increase their power, ambition, pride, fierceness, cruelty, exactions, rapine, and violence, are the horses and chariots which they employ to accomplish their ends; and, therefore, it is not to be wondered at if God should very often cast them down, when thus elated with pride and vain-glory, from their tottering and decayed thrones. For kings, then, to cultivate faithfulness and justice, and to temper their government with mercy and kindness, is the true and solid foundation of kingdoms. The latter clause of the verse intimates, that every thing which Solomon undertakes shall prosper, provided he combine with warlike courage the qualities of justice and mercy. Kings who are carried headlong with a blind and violent impulse, may for a time spread terror and consternation around them; but they soon fall by the force of their own efforts. Due moderation, therefore, and uniform self-restraint, are the best means for making the hands of the valiant to be feared and dreaded.

5. Thy arrows are sharp, etc. Here the Psalmist again refers to warlike power, when he says that the arrows of the king shall be sharp, so that they shall pierce the hearts of his enemies; by which he intimates that he has weapons in his hand with which to strike, even at a distance, all his enemies, whoever they may be, who resist his authority. In the same sense also he says that the people shall fall under him; as if it had been said, Whoever shall engage in the attempt to shake the stability of his kingdom shall miserably perish, for the king has in his hand a sufficiency of power to break the stubbornness of all such persons.

6. Thy throne, O God! is for ever and ever. In this verse the Psalmist commends other princely virtues in Solomon, namely, the eternal duration of his throne, and then the justice and rectitude of his mode of government. The Jews, indeed, explain this passage as if the discourse were addressed to God, but such an interpretation is frivolous and impertinent. Others of them read the word אלהים, Elohim, in the genitive case, and translate it of God, thus: The throne of thy God But for this there is no foundation, and it only betrays their presumption in not hesitating to wrest the Scriptures so shamefully, that they may not be constrained to acknowledge the divinity of the Messiah. 158158     See Appendix. The simple and natural sense is, that Solomon reigns not tyrannically, as the most of kings do, but by just and equal laws, and that, therefore, his throne shall be established for ever. Although he is called God, because God has imprinted some mark of his glory in the person of kings, yet this title cannot well be applied to a mortal man; for we nowhere read in Scripture that man or angel has been distinguished by this title without some qualification. It is true, indeed, that angels as well as judges are called collectively אלהים, Elohim, gods; but not individually, and no one man is called by this name without some word added by way of restriction, as when Moses was appointed to be a god to Pharaoh, (Exodus 7:1.) From this we may naturally infer, that this psalm relates, as we shall soon see, to a higher than any earthly kingdom.

In the next verse there is set before us a fuller statement of the righteousness for which this monarch is distinguished; for we are told that he is no less strict in, the punishment of iniquity than in maintaining justice. We know how many and great evils are engendered by impunity and license in doing evil, when kings are negligent and slack in punishing crimes. Hence the old proverb, That it is better to live under a prince who gives no allowance, than under one who imposes no restraint. To the same purpose also is the well-known sentiment of Solomon,

“He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.” —
(Proverbs 17:15)

Just and rightful government, therefore, consists of these two parts: first, That they who rule should carefully restrain wickedness; and, secondly, That they should vigorously maintain righteousness; even as Plato has well and wisely said, that civil government consists of two parts — rewards and punishments. When the Psalmist adds, that the king was anointed above his fellows, this is not to be understood as the effect or fruit of his righteousness, but rather as the cause of it: for the love of uprightness and equity by which Solomon was actuated arose from the fact, that he was divinely appointed to the kingdom. In ordaining him to the honor of authority and empire, Jehovah, at the same time, furnished him with the necessary endowments. The particle על-כם al-ken, therefore, as in the former instance, is to be understood here in the sense of because; as if it had been said, It is no wonder that Solomon is so illustrious for his love of justice, since, from the number of all his brethren, he was chosen to be consecrated king by holy anointing. Even before he was born, he was solemnly named by a divine oracle, as successor to the kingdom, and when he was elevated to the throne, he was also adorned with princely virtues. From this it follows, that anointing in respect of order preceded righteousness, and that, therefore, righteousness cannot be accounted the cause of the anointing. The royal dignity is called the oil of gladness, because of the effect of it; for the felicity and welfare of the Church depended upon the kingdom promised to the house of David. 159159     “Promis a la maison de David.” — Fr.

Hitherto, I have explained the text in the literal sense. But it is necessary that I should now proceed to illustrate somewhat more largely the comparison of Solomon with Christ, which I have only cursorily noticed. It would be quite sufficient for the pious and humble simply to state what is obvious, from the usual tenor of Scripture, that the posterity of David typically represented Christ to the ancient people of God; but as the Jews and other ungodly men refuse to submit cordially to the force of truth, it is of importance to show briefly from the context itself, the principal reasons from which it appears that some of the things here spoken are not applicable fully and perfectly to Solomon. As I intimated at the outset, the design of the prophet who composed this psalm was to confirm the hearts of the faithful, and to guard them against the terror and alarm with which the melancholy change that happened soon after might fill their minds. An everlasting duration, it might be said, had been promised to this kingdom, and it fell into decay after the death of one man. To this objection, therefore, the prophet replies, that although Rehoboam, who was the first successor of that glorious and powerful king, had his sovereignty reduced within narrow limits, so that a great part of the people were cut off and placed beyond the bounds of his dominion, yet that was no reason why the faith of the Church should fail; for in the kingdom of Solomon God had exhibited a type or figure of that everlasting kingdom which was still to be looked for and expected. In the first place, the name of king is ascribed to Solomon, simply by way of eminence, to teach us, that what is here said is not spoken of any common or ordinary king, but of that illustrious sovereign, whose throne God had promised should endure as long as the sun and moon continued to shine in the heavens, (Psalm 72:5.) David certainly was king, and so were those who succeeded Solomon. It is necessary then to observe, that there is in this term some special significance, as if the Holy Spirit had selected this one man from all others, to distinguish him by the highest mark of sovereignty. Besides, how inconsistent would it be to commend very highly warlike valor in Solomon, who was a man of a meek and quiet disposition, and who having ascended the throne when the kingdom enjoyed tranquillity and peace, devoted himself only to the cultivation of those things that are suitable to a time of peace, and never distinguished himself by any action in battle? But, above all, no clearer testimony could be adduced of the application of this psalm to Christ, than what is here said of the eternal duration of the kingdom. There can be no doubt, that allusion is here made to the holy oracle of which I have already made mention, That as long as the sun and moon shall endure in the heavens the throne of David shall endure. Even the Jews themselves are constrained to refer this to the Messiah. Accordingly, although the prophet commenced his discourse concerning the son of David, there can be no doubt, that, guided by the Holy Spirit to a higher strain, he comprehended the kingdom of the true and everlasting Messiah. Besides, there is the name אלהים, Elohim, which it is proper to notice. It is no doubt also applied both to angels and men, but it cannot be applied to a mere man without qualification. And, therefore, the divine majesty of Christ, beyond all question, is expressly denoted here. 160160     It is somewhat strange, after making the above observations, that Calvin should consider this beautiful psalm as referring primarily to Solomon, and to his marriage with the daughter of Pharaoh. That this is an epithalamium or nuptial song, is readily admitted; but that it refers to the nuptials of Solomon with Pharaoh’s daughter, there seems no just ground for concluding. If Solomon could not be described as “fairer than the children of men,” as “a mighty warrior,” as “a victorious conqueror,” as “a prince, whose throne is for ever and ever;” — if the name “God” could not be applied to him; — if it could not be said that his “children,” in the room of their father, were made princes in all the earth,” (verse 16;) that “his name” “would be remembered in all generations,” and that “the people would praise him for ever and ever,” (verse 17;) — if these things could not be spoken of him without much incongruity, it may well be doubted whether the primary application of this psalm is to him. Besides, although Solomon was a type of Christ, he was not so in all things, and there is nothing in this poem, nor in any other part of Scripture, which can lead us to regard the marriage of this prince with the daughter of Pharaoh as an image or type of the mystical marriage of Jesus Christ to the Church. We therefore agree with Rosenmüller, that “the notion of Rudinger and Grotius,” and other critics, “that this song is an epithalamium — a song in celebration of the marriage of Solomon, and his chief wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, (1 Kings 3:5,) is altogether to be abandoned;” and that it applies exclusively to the Messiah, and to the mystical union between him and his Church; set forth in an allegory borrowed from the manners of an Eastern court, and under the image of conjugal love, he being represented as the bridegroom, and the Church as his bride. — See Appendix.

I now proceed to notice the several parts, which however I shall only refer to briefly in passing. We have said that while this song is called a love song, or wedding song, stilldivine instruction is made to hold the most prominent place in it, lest our imaginations should lead us to regard it as referring to some lascivious and carnal amours. We know also, that in the same sense Christ is called “the perfection of beauty;” not that there was any striking display of it in his countenance, as some men grossly imagine, but because he was distinguished by the possession of singular gifts and graces, in which he far excelled all others. Nor is it an unusual style of speaking, that what is spiritual in Christ should be described under the form of earthly figures. The kingdom of Christ, it is said, shall be opulent; and in addition to this it is said, that it shall attain to a state of great glory, such as we see where there is great prosperity and vast power. In this description there is included also abundance of pleasures. Now, there is nothing of all this that applies literally to the kingdom of Christ, which is separated from the pomps of this world. But as it was the design of the prophets to adapt their instruction to the capacity of God’s ancient people, so in describing the kingdom of Christ, and the worship of God which ought to be observed in it, they employ figures taken from the ceremonies of the Law. If we bear in mind this mode of statement, in accordance with which such descriptions are made, there will no longer be any obscurity in this passage. It is also deserving of our notice, that, after the Psalmist has commended this heavenly king for his eloquence, he also describes him as armed with his sword. As, on the one hand, he governs by the influence of persuasion, those who willingly submit to his authority, and manifest docility of disposition; so, on the other hand, as there have been in all ages, and will continue to be, many who are rebellious and disobedient, it is necessary that the unbelieving should be made to feel in their own destruction that Christ has not come unarmed. While, therefore, he, is alluring us with meekness and kindness to himself, let us promptly and submissively yield to his authority, lest he should fall upon us, armed as he is with his sword and with deadly arrows. It is said, indeed, with much propriety, that grace is poured into his lips; for the Gospel, in its very nature, breathes the odour of life: but if we are stubborn and rebellious, this grace will become a ground of terror, and Christ himself will convert the very doctrine of his salvation into a sword and arrows against us. From this also there arises no small consolation to us, that the multitude and insolence of the adversaries of Christ may not discourage us. We know well with what arrogance the Papists reject Jesus Christ, whom, nevertheless, they boast to be their King; we know also with what profane contempt the greater part of the world deride him, and how frowardly the Turks and Jews reproach him. In the midst of such disorder, let us remember this prophecy, That Christ has no want of a sword and arrows to overthrow and destroy his enemies. Here I will again briefly repeat what I have noticed above, namely, that however much the Jews endeavor by their cavillings to pervert the sense of this verse, Thy throne, O God! is for ever and ever, yet it is sufficient of itself to establish the eternal divinity of Christ: for when the name אלהים, Elohim is ascribed either to angels or men, some other mark is at the same time usually added, to distinguish between them and the only true God; but here it is applied to Christ, simply and without any qualification. It is of importance, however, to notice, that Christ is here spoken of as he is

“God manifested in the flesh,” — (1 Timothy 3:16.)

He is also called God, as he is the Word, begotten of the Father before all worlds; but he is here set forth in the character of Mediator, and on this account also mention is made of him a little after, as being subject to God. And, indeed, if you limit to his divine nature what is here said of the everlasting duration of his kingdom, we shall be deprived of the inestimable benefit which redounds to us from this doctrine, when we learn that, as he is the head of the Church, the author and protector of our welfare, he reigns not merely for a time, but possesses an endless sovereignty; for from this we derive our greatest confidence both in life and in death. From the following verse also it clearly appears, that Christ is here exhibited to us in the character of Mediator; for he is said to have been anointed of God, yea, even above his fellows, (Isaiah 42:1; Hebrews 2:17.) This, however, cannot apply to the eternal Word of God, but to Christ in the flesh, and in this character he is both the servant of God and our brother.

VIEWNAME is study